Brownfield or Greenfield

Category: Sureset Blog

Posted 2nd October 2015 by Jim Newton


Following a recent BBC Inside Out investigation revealing figures (from 326 councils) showing that between 2011 and 2014 only 457,490 homes were built, compared to the estimated 974,000 that homes were needed.

In response to the investigation, the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said the government aimed to see one million new homes over this Parliament.

But where will these houses be built; Brownfield or Greenfield sites? There’s pro’s and con’s for both, what do you think?

Brownfield sites have been previously used for industrial or commercial purposes.


  • Brownfield sites usually consist of derelict and/or unused buildings that are found, for the most part, in unattractive, economically depressed areas of our towns and cities.
  • A Brownfield site can be more expensive to build on because of the clean-up required to remove any contamination from previous industrial use.


  • Redeveloping a Brownfield site not only boosts the economy by creating jobs and lifting property prices, but it improves the environment and creates a safer, healthier space.
  • Bringing a Brownfield site back into use prevents ‘urban sprawl’ thereby reducing traffic.
  • Brownfield redevelopment can be cheaper because vital infrastructure (drainage, electricity, roads, transport networks etc.) already exists.

Greenfield sites have never been built on.


  • Greenfield sites include greenbelt land which is a concern to environmentalists.
  • Developing previously untouched countryside results in ‘urban sprawl’ which encourages commuting and traffic congestion as people travel ‘in’ for work and leisure.
  • Building on Greenfield sites takes from the core of towns and cities as more businesses locate further ‘out’ because it’s cheaper.
  • New infrastructure (drainage, electricity, roads, transport links etc.) will need to be built.


  • Often being on the edge of towns and cities, Greenfield sites may be a more pleasant environment and have less congestion.
  • There is no clean-up costs associated with Greenfield sites.

In January 2015 the government announced a £4.4 million fund to support their ambition of having local development orders which will (pre)grant planning permission for new homes on over 90% of suitable Brownfield sites by 2020.   Local development orders are made by local planning authorities and grant planning permission to specific types of development within a defined area; streamlining the planning process for developers creating certainty and saving time and money.

Read our case study about building on Brownfield: Taylor Wimpey at Osiers Road, Wandsworth.

Some interesting facts about Wandsworth: 

  • Wandsworth gets its name from the River Wandle
  • Wandsworth appears in Domesday Book
  • The underpass beneath Wandsworth Bridge roundabout featured in A Clockwork Orange
  • Built in 1851, Wandsworth Prison is the largest prison in London and one of the largest in Europe
  • In 2005 a crater on Mars was named after Tooting by the International Astronomical Union
  • In 1965 Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs escaped from Wandsworth Prison
  • Admiral Nelson used to fish on the River Wandle
  • As of 2011 census 307,000 people live there (
  • Wandsworth is known for its cheap council tax (
  • In 2014 car parking charges were worth £29m to Wandsworth council (
  • Wandsworth is the sixth most unaffordable borough in London with the average flat costing £668,806 (